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Andrew Johnson
Suggested Reading



Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction
(Eric L. McKitrick)


Andrew Johnson: A Biography
(Hans L. Trefousse)
A definitive life of the flawed man who succeeded to the American presidency after Lincoln's assassination. Politically shrewd but fatally unable to adapt to new political realities, Andrew Johnson presided, disastrously, over the tumultuous first years of Reconstruction. In this provocative account, Hans Trefousse gives us "a brilliant, compassionate portrait of a dynamic era of social change and national healing, and of the tragic failure of an American leader"

Impeachment of a President: Andrew Johnson, the Blacks, and Reconstruction
(Hans L. Trefousse)
There are few Presidents of the United States whose historical image has changed more frequently than that of Andrew Johnson. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, he was considered inept and stubborn. After some time, however, Reconstruction was no longer seen as a holy crusade, and Johnson's reputation began to improve. By the 1920's, Johnson had become a great hero who had courageously defended the Constitution against unprincipled radicals. But as circumstances changed again and racial problems were once more weighing upon America's conscience, the seventeenth President's achievements began to appear more questionable. Perhaps he had not been so admirable after all; perhaps his stubborn resistance to radical demands for black suffrage merited disapprobation rather than praise. His portrait was tarnished a second time. Not only was he now labeled a racist, but an inept politician as well. In Impeachment of a President: Andrew Johnson, the Blacks, and Reconstruction, Trefousse paints a portrait of Johnson as a man who was honest, stubborn, and certain of the justice of his cause. Trefousse argues that Johnson was not the man to inch from the implications of decisions which might interfere temporarily with his long-range aims. Often alienating potential allies, he could have probably achieved more had he cooperated with moderate republicans. In part, he might even have realized his white supremacist aims. But once he had made his decision, once he had refused to come to terms with the moderates, his subsequent actions were not illogical. His policy may not the most intelligent-he was no political genius-but it was not wholly unsuccessful.

The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson
(Michael Les Benedict)
This book argues that although Johnson's impeachment did not succeed in ousting him, it was a justified step. It describes the critical issues and events leading up to the impeachment and then discusses the trial itself: what the grounds were, what the different sides' motivations were, why the attempt failed.

The Presidency of Andrew Johnson
(Albert E. Castel)
Andrew Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Lincoln, oversaw the most crucial and dramatic phase of Reconstruction. Historians have therefore tended to concentrate, to the exclusion of practically everything else, upon Johnson's key role in that titanic event. Although his volume focuses closely on Johnson's handling of Reconstruction, it also examines other important aspects of his administration, notably his foreign, economic, and Indian policies. As one of the few historians to do this, the author provides a broader and more balanced picture of Johnson's presidency than has been previously available.

Johnson has always been an enigma: much is known about what he did, little about why he did it. He wrote few letters, kept no diary, and rarely confided in anyone. Most historians either admire or despise him, depending on whether they consider his Reconstruction policies right or wrong. Castel achieves an objective reassessment of Johnson and his presidential actions by examining him primarily in terms of his effectiveness in using power and by not judging him--as most other scholars have--on moralistic or ideological grounds.

The book begins with an overview of America at the end of the Civil War and a description of Johnson's political career prior to 1865. Castel recounts the drama of Johnson's sudden inheritance of the presidency upon Lincoln's death and then examines how Johnson organized and operated his administration. Johnson's formulation of a Reconstruction policy for the defeated South comes under special scrutiny; Castel evaluates Johnson's motives for that policy, its implementation, and its reception in both North and South. He descries and analyzes Johnson's quarrel with the Republican[dominated Congress over Reconstruction, the triumph of the Republicans in the election of 1866, the president's frustrated attempt to remove Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office, his bitter dispute with General Ulysses S. Grant, and his impeachment by Congress. Johnson's impeachment trial is covered in detail; Castel explains how it was that Johnson escaped conviction and removal from office by the narrowest possible margin. The book concludes with a discussion of Johnson's place in history as judged by scholars during the past one hundred years.

This study sheds light on the nation's problems during the chaotic period between 1865 and 1869 and contributes a great deal to a much improved understanding of the seventeenth president.

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